I received a friend request on Facebook from my father, whom I have not heard from for the past thirty years.

When I was seven, he abandoned us for another woman and the family that he made with her. I overheard him asking my mother to tell us that he was dead and that we should forget him.

We never searched for him, and I have already forgiven him; but I’m not the least bit interested in him or in his children, who also want to have a relationship with me. I know that would hurt my mother, who was never able to trust anyone again. Am I doing the right thing to ignore them?

Dear Friend,

We are very sorry that you had to grow up without a father, and even worse, grow up knowing that your father had deliberately rejected you. You say that it changed your mother forever, so that she was never able to trust anyone again, and undoubtedly the damaged part of her emotions also cast a shadow over your childhood.

It is wonderful that you were able to forgive your father in spite of everything that he did. You can live free of resentment and bitterness because you chose to forgive, and your health will not suffer from the destructive effects that unforgiveness can cause. Furthermore, forgiveness is especially important because Jesus Christ Himself taught that we must be willing to forgive others if we want God to forgive us for our sins against Him. (1)

While it is true that the Ten Commandments teach us to honor our parents, your biological father chose to give up all the rights and responsibilities of being your father when he chose to abandon you. He wanted you to consider him as dead, so in an unexpected way you honored his wishes by considering him dead.

Now your father, with increased experience and maturity, may very well regret what he did. However, sending you a cold Facebook friend request does not indicate that he feels anything like that. His other children may have convinced him to send you the request, or they might have done it themselves using his account. What if they have a strong desire to know you in spite of ambivalence on his part?

Your choice to ignore your father’s request is neither right nor wrong. It is equally acceptable for you to ignore it or to consent to it. You must do what you feel comfortable doing. Forgiveness does not imply that you should restore the relationship, nor does honoring your parent imply that this man should be treated any differently than a biological sperm donor.

Furthermore, your decision to ignore “the other family” is understandable in that you are being protective of your mother, not wanting to do anything that could hurt her. By so doing you are choosing to honor the parent who actually served and acted like your parent.

We wish you well,

1 Mt 6:15